This is part two of a post authored by Brian Parker Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, MD. In part one, Brian discussed that determining what was a “Good School” depended upon how you defined success. He finished with the questions:
1. What are the students doing in the classes at School A vs School B?
2. What are the graduates of School A doing that School B’s are not or vice versa?
For the top 50 or so schools on most lists of “Good Schools”, you will find many of the same brand name schools that do attract the very best students and the very best faculty. But for the 80% or so of the rest of us who are often comparing their regional State schools and regional privates, again, the answer to these questions in most cases is “It Depends”. It depends largely on what you want to study, how much you want to pay, and how important is that sticker on the SUV. If the student is interested in an applied, more practical field, like Nursing, Education, or Athletic Training for example, than many of the more affordable State schools are often very good at producing graduates that get good jobs and do very well. In many cases, the State schools are actually directly linked to the hiring standards in that State for a particular profession. Some were even founded for example, as “teachers colleges” and many nurses are educated at 2-year junior colleges. Even in many of the social sciences and humanities, there are terrific faculty producing terrific graduates at small, regional, and big schools alike.
The point here is this— Answer those 2 questions and envision yourself with a degree in hand from School A vs School B in a few years. If you don’t know that the classes and faculty are actually better and that the degree actually has more value at School A vs School B, than what are you paying higher tuition for exactly? When someone says “you are paying for a School A education” then ask them the 2 questions. It may be that the school your considering has a particularly strong academic program in your area and it may be worth paying for but you should certainly know exactly what it is you are about to pay for.
Good Students make Good Graduates at Lots of Colleges
Since the economic downturn, there has been a lot written about college costs and quality (and even if college is a worthy investment at all). A New York Times writer took at look at some of the recent research and concluded that while the truly selective, elite schools do make a difference for their graduates, many smart students do very well at lots of more affordable State Schools. See http://tinyurl.com/elitecolleges
One interesting premise: that when a selective school admits really smart kids, they are clearly more likely to produce really smart graduates. So again, what is a good school? If we were to use a simplified 100 point scale and ask: If School A admits a 75 and makes them a 90 upon graduation, but school B admits a 90, who graduates a 95, which is the better school? Many would say the school graduating the 95s, since their graduates would on average, get better jobs and make higher incomes but School A is probably working much harder to create a great environment for their students to learn and has some great teaching faculty.
So What Does Make the Difference?
In almost every case I’ve seen in my 20 years of experience, the students with better grades and quality college experiences are going to be better prepared for graduate school and employment. In other words, how you did in the classes (GPA) and what you did outside the classes (extra and co-curricular activity) is going to get you into graduate school or get you a good job. Graduate and professional schools turn down undergrads from terrific “brand name” schools every year who just didn’t get 3.0s (the typical baseline for graduate school admission).
Here’s where you have to be very careful. If you select a school where you barely gain admission, select a major that’s really challenging to you, and aren’t able to do very much outside of sports, you may not have many options in four years. Graduating with a 2.4 and having done nothing but soccer isn’t going to compare well with other graduates these days. A 3.4 and an internship, study abroad, or leadership experience in athletics and campus organizations on the other hand, is going to give you some great advantages. More simply put, the name on the degree means almost nothing if you don’t do well in the classes and do more than just take the classes.
So as you think about who is telling you what is a “Good School” or not, remember that it is the GPA you earn and the experiences you have in college on and off the soccer field that will make the difference for most students going forward, not necessarily what kind of sticker Dad gets to put on the family SUV. Good Luck!
Thanks to Brian for his terrific contribution.
Thanks for reading! Add your comments below or drop us a line at email@example.com with specific questions.